LONDON — It’s official: Matt Hancock isn’t funny anymore.
The always-beleaguered former U.K. health secretary found himself back in the spotlight Wednesday as the British government unveiled its budget — and found time to made a couple of jibes about the leak of tens of thousands of Hancock’s private messages while it was at it. Westminster’s journalists looked on in horror.
Over 100,000 WhatsApps from Hancock’s mobile were leaked last month by a reporter who had helped him to write his memoirs on handling the coronavirus pandemic. Hancock called the resulting stories — some of which have raised major questions about government decision-making — “partial” and “agenda-driven,” and hit out at the “betrayal.”
That didn’t stop the U.K.’s Treasury mocking up a group chat to sell its budget Wednesday with the promise: “BREAKING NEWS: Spring Budget WhatsApp Files leaked.”
The department even offered a link to share “the scoop with your friends & family on WhatsApp.”
In the video, a host of government departments swap messages on budget planning.
In one such (completely made-up) exchange, the U.K. Department for Transport pitches: “Oh! Oh! and £200 million for POTHOLES!!!!”
The “Treasury” replies: “Love this. #Budget4Growth.”
It wasn’t the only dig at Hancock on budget day, either. Chancellor Jeremy Hunt made a quip about his old colleague from the Commons despatch box, saying he had discussed plans for a pension shake-up with the ex-health chief after he “kindly took a break from WhatsApping his colleagues.”
The Treasury video — which had netted more than 22,000 Twitter views at the time of writing — was not universally praised by the Westminster bubble.
The Guardian’s Henry Dyer suggested it was time to sink the Treasury and Whitehall in general “into the sea.”
“Just died inside,” revealed the Mirror’s political correspondent Ashley Cowburn.